Council renews advocacy vs rice straw burning

AKLAN. Officers and members of the Aklan Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Council discussing their concern on the revival of an advocacy against burning of rice straws in the province. (Jun N. Aguirre)

THE Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Council (PAFC) in Aklan is passing a resolution asking the local government units in the province to renew their commitment against rice straw burning practice among farmers.

In a PAFC quarterly meeting held Thursday, June 20, at the Aklan Provincial Capitol, Emerlinda R. Dela Cruz, PAFC chairman, said the burning of rice straws has been one of the concerns raised by the council's members.

Incidents of burning rice straws have reportedly been monitors in some barangays in the towns of Lezo, Tangalan and Makato, among others.

Some farmers said the barangay officials should be in the frontline in intensifying the campaign against rice straw burning.

Many of the officials, however, are hesitant to make apprehensions for fear of not supporting them in the barangay elections scheduled in 2020.

"In the province, we are invoking the provincial ordinance enacted for several years already. Violators, when caught, will be penalized will be asked to join a seminar, render community service, or pay a penalty of P500," said Dela Cruz.

But she said that although the provincial ordinance renders light penalties among others, it is not easy for the local government unit to implement it.

"For one, based on the provincial clean air act code, a town should first organize a soil conservation committee. The committee should [be] composed of the Municipal Agriculture Office, a Sanguniang Bayan chair on agriculture and fisheries, a representative of the Municipal Development Council, among others," Dela Cruz said.

According to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), burning of rice straws, which is generally practiced during the harvest season, causes air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide. If continually done, it will decrease soil’s nitrogen, 25 percent of phosphorus, 20 percent of potassium, and 5-60 percent of sulfur.

The practice also damages food resources of beneficial insects in the rice field, said PhilRice.

The Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003) and Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 prohibit open-field burning, including burning of rice straws.

In Aklan, burning of rice straws also affects tourists coming to and from Boracay Island, as several farmers burn their rice straws along the highway.

Some agriculturists in Aklan described the scenario as an inferno-like scenery, when farmers started burning of rice straws simultaneously.

Valerie Briones, a representative of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), said while provincial ordinance is difficult to implement, local enforcers may face a harder experience if they invoke the national law against rice straw burning.

"The easiest is to urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to apprehend suspects in the actual rice straw burning," she said.

Briones said local enforcers could also use citation tickets, but based on national standard, "citation tickets should be printed at the National Printing Office in order for it to become legally valid."

The council is also eyeing to introduce vermi composting machines to recycle rice straws for fertilizer through the organized cooperatives and the use of shredding machines as an alternative against the rice straw burning problems, she added. (SunStar Philippines)


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